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Humility that frees us from anger

From the February 2021 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Shortly after I graduated from college, I met a longtime Christian Scientist. She was a wonderful woman, and since I liked and respected her, I listened to what she had to say even though her beliefs were quite different from what I had learned as a child. Many of the teachings of Christian Science made sense to me, so I began to study and practice Christian Science.

I hadn’t known this woman long before she said (to my surprise) that I would benefit from praying about my temper. I didn’t think I had a bad temper; I hadn’t even lost my temper around her, nor had we had any heated disputes. Thankfully, however, God gave me the good sense to listen to my new friend and to realize I needed to change. 

I had to admit that in the past there were times when I “flew off the handle” with anger. I remember becoming so upset once that I yelled and threw pillows at a wall. Even though I rarely became that upset, I found that anger can range from annoyance to resentment to rage. I recognized that I often took offense at what others said to me, and I was critical of others. I could see there was plenty of room for improvement in my temperament.

One of the first thoughts that came to me was the importance of expressing humility. I considered myself intelligent and didn’t particularly appreciate being given instruction and correction. I felt indignant about that. However, Christ Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). I knew that in order to listen with an open and receptive heart and grow spiritually, I needed to swallow my pride. It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible, “Blessed are the know-it-alls,” but rather, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). I also realized that admitting I didn’t have all the answers is not a sign of ignorance or weakness, but indicative of a willingness to learn and grow.

The more I practiced humility, the more I came to greatly appreciate the instructions and corrections I was given, and I realized I had a lot to learn. As the Bible states: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6). When instruction or correction is needed, we can see these as expressions of love, and we can humbly listen to grow from them. 

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, expresses the value of humility this way: “Experience shows that humility is the first step in Christian Science, wherein all is controlled, not by man or laws material, but by wisdom, Truth, and Love” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 354). 

This period of learning to be humble proved to be the most blessed time of my life.  

Another valuable lesson I learned about humility is to accept that God, our Father-Mother, knows best and to turn the controls over to Him. Since God is omniscient, I needed to sacrifice my will to His. After all, for years I had prayed the Lord’s Prayer, which includes the phrase, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). I needed to apply that prayer to my everyday life and trust God, even when I thought I knew better. 

Thankfully, after many years of experiencing the wisdom of God’s guidance, it has become easier to humbly pray for His direction and to accept, with gratitude, the answers and results that I see.

Hymn 359 in the Christian Science Hymnal sums up this idea so beautifully:

Trust the Eternal, and repent in meekness
   Of that heart’s pride which frowns and will not yield,
Then to thy child-heart shall come strength in weakness,
   And thine immortal life shall be revealed.
(William P. McKenzie)

One more very important aspect of humility I discovered relates to the acceptance of everyone’s true nature as a child of God, regardless of differences in appearance, beliefs, viewpoints, political affiliations, or any way of life. Such acceptance frees us from fear and anger in its various forms, including impatience, irritation, resentment, and hatred. When we understand the truth of this statement: “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10), then we realize we are all God’s equally beloved children, and on this basis we can love one another.

Mrs. Eddy shares this: “We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it,—determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is, unless the offense be against God” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 224).

Proof of my progress was evident when several family members came to visit for a reunion. A couple of them asked if I ever got mad or upset. They hadn’t seen me displaying any signs of anger or impatience even though it was a very busy and hectic time. After some thought, I realized I hadn’t gotten mad about anything for quite a while. Also, instead of being critical of others, I found I was genuinely more accepting. As a result, I was enjoying a more peaceful and harmonious life.

I am grateful that we can turn to prayer to avert or correct feelings of anger or discontent. After all, who or what is there to be angry about when we humbly trust that our all-loving and all-knowing God is in control, and when we acknowledge that we are all God’s children—sisters and brothers, loved and guided by the same heavenly Father?

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